After a slow start, plenty of peaches are hitting local fruit stands.
Produce seller Sebrena Muirhead lost out on peach sales in May and June. Farms in South Carolina’s prime peach-growing region were asking too high a price because of a shortage of early variety peaches, she said.
On the first day of July, Muirhead said supplies were picking up, perfect timing for her customers hoping to make peach cobblers and homemade ice cream during the July Fourth holiday weekend.
“Everything’s back to normal. It’s much easier to get them,” said Muirhead, wiping her brow at the tailgate of her red Chevy pickup parked in the 1700 block of Walton Way.
A hard freeze in late March ruined South Carolina’s early peach crop, causing about $80 million in damage. With a low supply, high prices hit most sellers hard until later varieties were ready for picking.
“May and June were as bad as we expected,” said Sonny Yonce, a peach farmer in Johnston, S.C. “Now, we need a recovery and to move on. We’re fixin’ to enter that phase.”
The packing plant at J.W. Yonce & Sons still only operates in the morning, but Yonce expects it to return to normal levels within the week. Freestone peaches – the crowning glory of the harvest – are coming off the trees but not at high volumes, he said.
Peach lovers in Augusta and surrounding areas shouldn’t have problems finding the fruit at local stands, but Yonce said his farm hasn’t been able to ship them to stores in the Northeast and Midwest.
Alexander Kenner, who sells produce at the Augusta State Farmer’s Market on Fifth Street, paid higher prices in June to keep a steady supply at his stand. Entering July, it’s easier to get his hands on peaches as the prices fall.
“The supply was OK if you were willing to pay,” Kenner said.
He sold a basket of peaches for $22 on Tuesday, down $5 from the beginning of the season.
Despite the losses, farmers, sellers and consumers have celebrated the sweet and juicy peaches. The quality has been as good as ever, they said.
“This has been very unusual,” Yonce said. “It’s just been surprisingly good this summer.”